Supreme Court rules death for Nirbhaya gangrape convicts

The four convicted in the case had approached the SC against the Delhi HC's order that had confirmed death penalty awarded by trial court.

New Delhi: Ruling that the rape of Nirbhaya was “a barbaric incident”, one that had created a “tsunami of shock” in the country, the Supreme Court on Friday awarded death to four men convicted in the 2012 gruesome crime in New Delhi.

Six men had raped the medical student on the night of December 16, 2012 in a bus she had taken home with a male friend. One of the six, prime accused Ram Singh, committed suicide in Tihar Jail in 2015. Another accused, a juvenile at the time of the crime, walked free after three years in a reform home. Many had then questioned laws that govern crimes by minors -- given the enormity of this case.

Also read: Timeline of events since Dec 16, 2012

'Looking at the serious injuries... the severe nature of offence committed by the convicts, we are upholding the sentence,' Justice Dipak Mishra said, upholding the death sentences already given to the four by a trial court as well as the Delhi High Court. "This is a story of some a different world," he added.

The Supreme Court held the fatal rape to be the “rarest of rare” case to award death penalty to, adding: “The convicts treated the victim as an object of enjoyment, with the single purpose of ravishing her.”

The court said the conspiracy of the men had been established and that there was “every effort to destroy evidence, like running bus over the victim and her friend”.

The apex court held the testimony of her friend, who was the first prosecution witness, was impeccable and could be relied upon. The court also ruled that the convicts’ background, the lack of any previous criminal record or even good behaviour in prison could not outweight the aggravating circumstances in this case.

“The testimony of victim's friend who was with her in the bus, and that of the first prosecution witness is impeccable and relied upon,” the apex court said.

While ruling in favour of death, Justice R Bhanumati said there should be systematic education of children to ensure they respect women. Justice Bhanumati quoted Swami Vivekananda on how tradition should enrich society with knowledge and understanding to ensure justice for women.

“If this case isn't rarest of rare to award death penalty, then which case can fall under it?” Justice R Banumathi asked while passing the order.

The Supreme Court also said that the convicts' background, age, absence of criminal record and good behaviour in prison cannot outweigh aggravating circumstances.

Representing the convicts, lawyer A P Singh was critical of the sentence, stating: “Samaaj mein message dene ke liye kisi ko phansi nahi de sakte; human rights ki dhajiyaan udd gayi.” (You cannot hang someone to send a message to society. This violates human rights). Singh said he would be filing a review petition soon.

A relentless crusader for his daughter's justice, father Badri Singh Pandey counted the sentence as a "victory for his family". "I am very happy with the judgement," he said.

The 23-year-old paramedic was brutally assaulted and raped by the six in a moving bus in south Delhi and thrown out of the vehicle with her male friend on the night of December 16, 2012. She later died of her injuries. Nirbhaya was not only raped and beaten, but was also ‘violated with a metal rod.’

“It appears to be that a rod was inserted into her and it was pulled out with so much force that the act brought out her intestines... That is probably the only thing that explains such severe damage to her intestines,” a doctor from Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, where Nirbhaya was undergoing treatment, had told the media.

The Delhi High Court, in its verdict on March 13, 2014, observed that their offence fell in the 'rarest of rare' category and had upheld the death sentence awarded to them by the trial court.

The woman had undergone multiple surgeries, where portions of her intestine, which had turned gangrenous, were removed. Doctors had said only five percent of her intestine was inside her when she arrived at the medical facility. She had died in a Singapore hospital on December 29 that year.

The four convicts -- Mukesh, Pawan, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Kumar Singh -- had approached the Supreme Court against the high court's order which had confirmed the death penalty awarded to them by the trial court.

During the hearing, advocates A P Singh and M L Sharma, representing the four convicts, said they should be given a chance to reform and considering the mitigating factors, the court should not award them death penalty.

Nearly three years after the rape, in 2015, Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi had revealed her daughter’s name to the world. "My daughter was Jyoti Singh and I am not ashamed to name her," she had said in the capital, adding she was proud her deceased daughter had become the face to fight injustice against women.

The central government had also brought in wide-ranging changes to existing rape laws following the crime.

Commenting on the verdict, Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister Maneka Gandhi said, “A judgement like this was necessary to send a stern message to people who commit such heinous crimes”.

Nirbhaya's father Badri Singh Pandey expressed happiness at the verdict, calling it a victory for his family.

Lawyer AP Singh however, claimed that 'Gandhian principles have been ruined' and that he would file a review petition.

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